Park City mining building, once in ‘deplorable’ shape, saved
Preservation group honors efforts at California-Comstock Mine site
March 17, 2017
As Park City's silver-mining industry collapsed and, years later, skiing came to drive the local economy, the site of the California-Comstock Mine fell into a state of terrible disrepair.
Like numerous other mining-era sites in the Park City area, there was little work done at the onetime California-Comstock Mine over the decades after mining ended. The site is located on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort, close to the Thaynes ski lift and at the bottom of the Keystone ski run. It is one of the most prominent mining-era sites that is easily visible to skiers at PCMR.
The site of the California-Comstock Mine was one of the mining-era locations that the owner of PCMR, Colorado-based Vail Resorts, identified as requiring work based on the terrible shape it was in. There was concern the structure would collapse.
"Deplorable . . . It was just falling down. It wasn't going to last another winter," said Sally Elliott, one of the chairs of a group known as Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History.
The group teamed with PCMR and City Hall to undertake the work, hiring consultants and a firm to stabilize the wooden building with a foundation made of stacked stones.
The work was largely completed last summer. It required heavy machinery like a crane to lift timbers that fell off the structure. Elliott said a small structure close to the main building needs to be re-erected and masonry work is planned.
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She said it was important to pursue the work last summer since the condition had deteriorated. The heavy snow this winter could have left the building "close to flat," she said.
"This winter would have been disastrous for it," Elliott said.
The California-Comstock Mine site dates to approximately 1900 and City Hall says it is one of the oldest mining-era buildings remaining in Park City. Anya Grahn, the preservation planner at City Hall, called the site a "stabilized ruin." She said the site is important since it illustrates a stage in the progression of the mining industry in the city.
"It kind of is the beginning of development for Park City mining," Grahn said.
Preservation Utah, a statewide organization once known as the Utah Heritage Foundation, recently honored the work at the California-Comstock Mine site with an annual award given in the category of stabilization, restoration or renovation. City Hall, a Vail Resorts subsidiary and the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History were listed as the nominees.
A nominating letter, drafted by Grahn, provided a detailed rundown of the work, touched on Park City's mining history and explained that mining-era sites remain standing.
"Preserved in time and largely overlooked, the mine sites continued to persevere through the harsh winters on the mountain . . . ," the letter says.
It describes that the site was cleared of debris, pieces of the structure were salvaged and part of what was a mill building was rebuilt. It "is no longer threatened by collapse and the structural stabilization will allow for the safe, future restoration efforts on the stone foundation and remaining wood structure," according to the letter. Clark Martinez, a member of a well-known Park City family with longtime ties to the mining industry, was the general contractor.
Elliott said Vail Resorts posted $50,000 for the work and a private donor provided another $50,000 as part of a matching grant. Another $16,000 must be raised to secure the $50,000 matching grant. The final cost of the project, though, is not yet known.
City Hall leaders, tourism officials and the preservation community have long seen the mining-era history as setting Park City apart from some of mountain resort competitors. They say the historic buildings and structures on the slopes offer a unique skiing experience. PCMR said it was pleased with the Preservation Utah award.
"I was surprised and pleased to receive this award notification. This is fantastic recognition of community collaboration – the city, the resort, the museum and all the tireless efforts of the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History that allow the passion and skills of Clark Martinez to bring the restoration work to fruition," Bill Rock, the chief operating officer of PCMR, said in a prepared statement.